Conor McGregor mentions title outsider when quizzed on next opponent
"It's going to be a smooth one for me. I know Dustin is a good fighter, but I'm the double greatest."
Conor McGregor believes he can do away with the latest Dustin Poirier challenge inside 60 seconds, but admits he would almost prefer a five-round war. One man that will be watching on closely, from his home in the Bronx, is Al Iaquinta.
After 12 months away from the sport, and vowing that "I'll never really retire", McGregor is keen to fight three or four times in 2021, starting with his rematch against Poirier. There was quite a bit of bad blood between the pair when they faced off in 2014, but both McGregor and Poirier are fight veterans in their 30s now and the respect between the two is evident.
They face off at Yas Island, Abu Dhabi on Saturday at UFC 257 and even though Khabib Nurmagomedov has given no concrete indication that he will return, the main event will not be for 'The Eagle's' title.
For McGregor, he is eager to show off his lightweight physique after his 2020 torching of Donald Cerrone came when he weighed in at 170lbs. As he so often does going into big fights, McGregor claims to be in his best ever shape. It is hard to argue with the pictures and footage coming from his camp. For 2021, expect 'The Notorious' to focus on trying to clean out the entire division.
Having spoken, in 2019, about his grand plans for 2020, and name-checked half the lightweight and welterweight contenders, McGregor was cagier in his most recent interview with ESPN's Ariel Helwani. His goal for 2021, he stated, was merely "competition".
There was one surprise name that came up, though, and it is someone who, just over two years ago, told the Dubliner, "I'm the f***ing guy in this division!"
"I’d like to fight Al Iaquinta at some stage," McGregor declared. "I’d like to fight Al. I don’t know, I’d just like to fight him. I’d like to fight Al. He’s said a few things. I actually like Al. I think he’s a funny guy. He’s a real estate agent and all. I think that’s even funny in itself. He has his little team (Ray) Longo and those guys. I’d like to fight Al.
"I’d like to fight them all to be honest. I don’t care. This is the thing with me and all these other guys. Wins and losses and all this, it means nothing to me. If you’re scheduled to fight a man and you’ve gone through build-up and there's history and all of this. A fight is a fight and fights must take place."
Iaquinta is currently ranked 10th in the UFC's lightweight standings. He fought Nurmagomedov in April 2018 when Tony Ferguson pulled out of the bout with a knee injury. It was the event when Nurmagomedov won the interim lightweight belt that he then unified by beating McGregor.
Iaquinta is 1-3 in his last four fights but does have the honour of being the only man to go the distance with Nurmagomedov in the past three years.
Back in December 2018, when he defeated Kevin Lee and had a bit of wind in his sails, Iaquinta declared that McGregor should go through him if he wanted another crack at the title.
"I can beat anyone in the lightweight division," he proclaimed. "Conor tapped out. I took it like a man on a weeks' notice. He had all the time in the world to prepare and he wanted a way out. I'm the f***ing guy in this division."
If it is competition and activity McGregor is seeking in 2021, 'Raging Al' will be more than happy to oblige.